A Stanford Outlook article.
Card going for title
No. 2 women ready to begin dual match play
January 16, 2008
By Anthony Nguyen
Ten players. Four months. One national title to reclaim.
The Stanford women’s tennis team is set to begin its season of dual match play next week. The Card will compete in both singles and doubles games in the upcoming matches and is looking to reclaim the NCAA title after it was upset last year.
With the individual season under its belt, the No. 2 Stanford women’s tennis team will soon begin dual match play, “the most exciting time of year for us,” according to junior Megan Doheny.
But what exactly is dual match play?
Most of us are familiar with the fall season, filled with individual tournaments and a lot of personal victories — much like the pros.
But this is college tennis, and a lot more intense.
Forget individual accolades and titles. At this point, the players have fully shaken their off-season rust and are now playing at their top levels with their team’s record on the line.
Perhaps head coach Lele Forood most accurately described dual match play.
“The dual season obviously is the most important part of what we do even though we do both during the year,” Forood said. “The intensity picks up clearly in the dual season. Everyone gets themselves ready and is more prepared for the dual season.”
The dual match system pits entire teams against each other, testing the depth and talent of each.
“You need a lot of players, you really do,” Forood said. “Depth is very important because we play a lot of matches and we play in this weather in the low 50’s here and we’ve got a lot of matches starting in late January. Because of injuries and schedule, you need a lot of players ready to play.”
There are six singles matches that play best of three sets. Each singles victory earns one point for the team.
Leading the way for the Cardinal women are junior Jessica Nguyen (No. 21 in the nation), sophomore Lindsay Burdette (No. 39) and freshman Carolyn McVeigh (No. 58).
Absent from the rankings this year is senior Celia Durkin, who, just a year ago, received All-American and All-Pac-10 Second Team honors.
Durkin, who battled injuries throughout the fall season, has since recovered and is primed to regain her form just in time.
She is joined by fellow seniors Lejla Hodzic and Whitney Deason, who captured doubles and singles titles at last weekend’s Freeman Championships.
The great equalizer of the dual match system is the doubles game. Three doubles teams each play a superset, and the team with two doubles wins gets the final team point.
First team to four points wins — it’s that simple.
Though no Stanford duo cracked the top 50 in the January rankings, doubles appears to be the Cardinal’s strong point.
At the Freeman Championships, Deason and Nguyen took home the flight one title, while Hodzic and freshman Jennifer Yen took the flight two crown.
Looking at the season, here are some notable dates and match-ups on Stanford’s schedule:
— 1/25/08: UC-Davis. The Cardinal women begin their season at home against the Aggies. “Obviously in the early part of the season, Davis is a nice little warm-up match,” Forood said.
— 1/31/08: Fresno State. The No. 14 Bulldogs will be the Card’s first real test in the early season at home. “Fresno state is a really tough match and we have them second,” Forood said. “That’s a huge match in the early part of the season.”
— 2/07/08: National Team Indoors. In a month’s time, the best teams in the nation will convene in Madison, Wisc., to duke it out for the top spot in the rankings. Last year, Stanford’s 89-game win streak was broken by eventual national champion, Georgia Tech, at the Indoors. “All the top teams are going to be at the Indoors except for No. 4 Florida, so it’s clearly just a brutal draw,” Forood said. “It’s four days of intense and tough matches. We’ll probably get to play a lot of teams that we won’t get to see on our schedule.”
— 2/20/08: California. Stanford opens up Pacific-10 Conference play at No. 6 California. Leading the Golden Bears is former NCAA Champion Susie Babos. “She’s finally a senior, a very, very tough player who has really played well against us,” Forood said of Babos. “It’s going to be a big match. It’s tough up there, especially during the winter. It could be cold, windy, but it’s up to us to be ready to play up there.”
— 2/29/08 and 3/01/08: UCLA and USC. These two late February games are lumped together in a “very important road trip” as Forood put it. With the Bruins ranked No. 3 behind Stanford and USC at No. 8, the weekend trip to L.A. will probably define the Cardinal’s season. “Well basically, UCLA is the same team plus they’ve added another player to last year’s runner up team,” Forood said. “They’re very talented and they’re extremely good in doubles. They’re going to be a great test. USC is no easy team either. Their No. 3 or No. 4 player from last year, Fink, won last week’s tournament at Las Vegas. That just shows how much depth they have on their squad.”
At the end of April, the Card will host Cal, UCLA and USC in a final tune-up before Pac-10 Championships and NCAAs. “It’s a long drawn out affair, and we’ll know a little more about ourselves after the Indoors,” Forood said. “We’ll get into conference play and, by April, you’ve seen everybody and you’re playing the same teams.”
— 5/9/08: NCAA Tournament. The Cardinal will set out to win its fourth title in five years. Last year, the Card fell in the semifinal game to UCLA.
When asked what date she has marked on her calendar, Durkin replied, “the date of the finals of NCAAs.”
That’s how much Stanford wants to reclaim the title.
Fortunately, the Cardinal women have learned from last year’s dual match losses.
“I think that there’s something a little bit unreal going years and years without taking a dual loss,” Forood said. “Quite frankly, you don’t know how painful it is until you lose. I think we have that perspective, and we understand that we don’t like losing too much.”
With experience on their side and a desire for vengeance, the Stanford women’s tennis team is a force to be reckoned with.
“It’s a long season and we don’t like to lose, let’s put it that way,” Forood quipped.